Shortages of protective health gear in India are forcing some doctors to use raincoats and motorbike helmets while fighting the coronavirus, exposing the weak state of the public health system ahead of an anticipated surge in COVID-19 cases. Moreover, the health staff are being attacked. This news comes in as the country looks at 7 doctors from Delhi test positive for the deadly virus.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government said India was trying to get personal protective equipment in bulk domestically and from South Korea and China to meet the shortages.
Doctors fighting on the frontline believe they could that without this proper gear, they could become carriers of the disease.
In Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, drivers of around 4,700 ambulances that mainly serve government hospitals went on strike on Tuesday, demanding proper safety gear and health insurance.
“We won’t risk our lives unless our demand is met,” Hanuman Pandey, president of the Ambulance Workers Association, told Reuters.
According to one projection, more than 100,000 people could be infected by mid-May, putting India’s underfunded health system and scarce doctors under severe strain.
In Kolkata, junior doctors at the major coronavirus treatment facility – Beliaghata Infectious Disease Hospital – were given plastic raincoats to examine patients last week, according to two doctors there and photographs reviewed by Reuters.
“We won’t work at the cost of our lives,” said one of the doctors, who declined to be named because he feared retaliation from the authorities.
The hospital’s medical superintendent in-charge, Dr. Asis Manna, declined to comment.
In Haryana state near New Delhi, Dr. Sandeep Garg of ESI Hospital said he had been using a motorbike helmet because he didn’t have any N95 masks, which offer significant protection against virus particles.
“I put on a helmet – it has a visor in front so it covers my face, adding another layer over the surgical mask,” Garg said.
In a state-run hospital in the city of Rohtak in Haryana, several junior doctors have been declining to treat patients unless they have adequate safety equipment.
Madhya Pradesh healthcare workers and civic officials were attacked by a mob of angry locals in an Indore neighbourhood on Wednesday, as they visited the area to screen residents for signs of coronavirus. Two women doctors were injured in the attack and had to be rescued by police. The shocking attack came two days after locals from the Ranipura area of the city allegedly spat at officials and abused them during screening procedures.
#IndoreNews #Indore Stones are being pelted against medical professionals who visited the area to test few patients. Stupid, barbaric and ignorant, and they live among us, we share our resources with these aholes. pic.twitter.com/wsVo8ArHPx
— Sachin (@Sachinhep) April 2, 2020
In a video circulating online, two healthcare workers dressed in light blue PPE (personal protective equipment) suits can be seen running from a small group of locals who are throwing stones and what appears to be a large piece of plastic at them.
The small group soon turns into a mob of people hurling abuses, throwing sticks and stones and chasing them down the narrow lane.
Indore has 76 per cent of all coronavirus reported from Madhya Pradesh so far. The state has 93 active cases with seven deaths linked to the virus; the seventh – a 65-year-old woman – was reported by news agency PTI and has yet to be confirmed by the Health Ministry.